June 2012

Demand is high for ASBMB-sponsored career symposia

Latest event at the University of Pittsburgh
draws more than 150 attendees
seeking career advice and inspiration

More than 150 graduate students and postdocs from as far away as Cleveland and State College, Penn., packed into cars and journeyed to the University of Pittsburgh in early May to hear presentations on career fields ranging from academia and industry to science policy and writing.

The symposium, sponsored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was titled “What Can I Do With My Ph.D.?” and featured eleven speakers on four panels. There also were two breakout sessions that allowed attendees to participate in roundtable discussion with the speakers.

For University of Pittsburgh postdoctoral fellow Ken Wysocki, the event provided “a great assortment of opportunities for me to consider as I redirect my career path.”

The symposium was the fourth of its kind, following previous successes in New Jersey, Chicago and San Francisco. “The career symposia are a chance for ASBMB to reach out and serve the young members who are the future of our society,” explains Terri Kinzy, who leads the ASBMB Membership Committee.

ASBMB-sponsored career symposium at the University of Pittsburgh - speakerAnd it’s obvious that the symposia are touching a nerve with young scientists. According to University of Pittsburgh postdoctoral fellow Cristy Gelling, who helped organize the most recent event, “Our registration limit was reached before we even started marketing the symposium in earnest!”

Linton Traub, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, provided the initial proposal for the event, before handing off the organizational duties to postdoctoral fellows Gelling, Chris Guerriero, Lucia Zacchi and Teresa Buck. For Traub, one of the benefits of the symposium was that “it allowed a group of highly talented, forward-looking, driven and organized postdoctoral fellows to gain valuable experience in staging and hosting the gathering to cater to the interests of their scientific colleagues and peers.”

Gelling says that she and her co-organizers jumped at the chance to put together what she called “the career symposium that we had always wanted to attend.” Their enthusiasm was reciprocated, for the speakers who were approached, with only one exception, quickly agreed to participate.

In their presentations, the speakers, most of whom were Pitt alums, described how they were able to parlay their Ph.D.s into a variety of different career paths. Through their varied stories, they shared the same message: There is no one way to go. “Draw your own path,” advised Rebecca Palmer, a freelance technical writer.

ASBMB’s president-elect, Jeremy Berg, gave the event’s keynote address, and he highlighted (using some colorful graphics) the career paths followed by trainees from his own lab and urged the audience to “be proactive in planning your career.”

“It went really well, and we were lucky to have so many outstanding speakers that took the time to share their experiences and advice with us,” said Zacchi. Guerriero agreed, adding that the symposium proved “a great way to help so many of our colleagues” in thinking about the next phases of their careers.


Geoff HuntGeoff Hunt (ghunt@asbmb.org) is ASBMB’s public outreach coordinator.

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